Take a trip over to Carcinogenic Poetry to see my latest publication — When I Sleep I Dream. Then while you’re there — after you’ve left a comment about the poem (Hey! It’s good for the ego and for my future) — browse for a while and look at the other fine poets editor Michael Aaron Casares (a fine poet himself) has spotlighted.
“The words and phrases that describe the erotic happen to be the same that apply to poetic inspiration: pleasure, a deep satisfaction, mystery, unknowing, a chance encounter, the unpredictable, a letting go, a giving over, a giving into, a forgetting of the self, and the getting of a gift.” (John Foy, writing in The Raintown ReviewVolume 12 Issue 1, March 2014.)
The following poem originally appeared in Poet Lore (1985) and was later included in A Matter of Mind (Foothills Publishing, 2004)
Her child-combed hair that smells of hay,
Thighs dusted with plowed earth,
She sheds her patterned dress and climbs
The attic stairs to me,
Where we collide among the cries
Of angry springs, sterile
Thrusts, and pain of ruined farmers’
Sons. A shotgun across
His chest, her father sleeps. Look. Smell The sweat of honest work. This girl works as hard as any Man. Now she’s mine, until
Dawn, when he and I see her work
The fields, saddle shoes filled
With air next to school books along
The road that melts in light.
It’s cold, and the wind blowing across this hill
Makes it colder. I’m not used to wearing
Winter coats at Easter, nor to sharing
Sunrise hymns with strangers. But kids will
Pull you out of bed at awful hours and fill
Your life with endless nights. They don’t care
That their lives intrude on yours with that glaring
Arrogance of youth that can’t stay still.
At eleven PM Jason cut his hand.
At midnight, in a dim and sterile room,
A young intern sewed it shut. He stands
Here now to celebrate an empty tomb.
The spreading rose of day dissolves the night.
I watch him join hands with others to sing
Hallelujah toward the rising sun.
And as I walk a little further from
Their voices rising in the morning wind,
I feel the cold rise up around my heart.
His world’s a morning filling up with light
And sun-glazed faces like a ring
Of sacrificial fire. Their antiphon
Goes with me down the hill. He’s just begun.
The road is like a ribbon with no end,
And I’m too old to remember where it starts.
They’ll sing and share the bread. I’ll set the fan
Inside the car on high. I’ll sleep at noon.
Yesterday with the tree planted in its stand,
the tinsel being all that was left to do,
and the Celtic music filling the room
with the richness of its Irish brogue,
we danced, father and daughter, a jig.
And as I reached up to drape the branches
in their silver shimmer and felt the pain
make its way across my arm and chest,
I knew the last thing I would say would be
I’m glad we danced.
respect when I place
myself at the keyboard, face
bathed in blue light.
I do alright.
Not like Mary.
Fell in love with a fairy
used to come in all the time.
His name was Harry.
He’d sit here at the piano making eyes
at all the guys.
Mary never got wise.
one thing I know
can’t kiss away the blues.
Not the real blues.
Not the hollow note
deep in your throat
kind of blues
that wake you in the middle of the night
because the silence gets so loud
you can hear starlight
It’s a job.
Last week some slob
laid fifty bucks beside me.
Forget what you see,
he said. I’m not here.
My wife wouldn’t understand.
All I did was hold her hand,
not like I planned
it or anything. So I fanned
his fantasy for a while,
played My Funny Valentine and with style
closed my eyes tight.
I said, I don’t see nobody tonight.
They go away.
who’s best friends with his old lady May,
asks how’d it go.
Didn’t see a soul I know.
I tell people who come in all the time
you can’t kiss away the blues,
not those lonely in a crowd blues.
Those caged bird
watching from a swinging perch
The kind that weigh
you down even when the door is open
because you get so hungry
not even love
can fill you up.
You know when I saw you two come in
I felt sick
like I was watching someone commit
A no win
like when you begin
an undeniable urge to piss.
Maybe I shouldn’t say this.
After all I see a lot of dirt.
I’ve watched a lot of men chase a skirt.
Jesus, I don’t mean that.
It’s just when you’ve sat
where I’ve sat,
you get tired
of watching friends choose
the place you gotta be to play the blues.
There’s no way.
You can try,
but you’re gonna lose
because there’s no way
you can kiss away
…you can still catch my story “Fireflies” in the lead position of the July issue of The Bacon Review. Simply click on the title after reading the editor’s comments on the left side of the front page. If you wait, you’ll still be able to see it, but you’ll need to go to the archives section of the The Bacon Review Web site. Whether you read the story now or later in the archives, there’s space on the site for you to leave a comment. I’d like to know what you think.
The following poem was originally published in Birmingham Poetry Review, No. 31, Summer/Fall 2005.
(Try playing the video and audio tracks together; just wait for the music to start before starting the audio.)
From the Choir Loft
Singing is twice praying.
On alternating days we sang the Mass At seven, boys, then girls, then boys again.
Sometimes the only ones who’d show
To sing were me and Hal the organist,
And I could barely hum a note. Refrains
Eluded me, so Hal would sing it solo.
Now Hal had music in his hands and feet; The organ‘s pipes were a part of him.
But when he tried for music from his throat,
Well, Father said it sounded kind of sweet
If sweet meant scratchy, hoarse, and thin
And not unlike the bleating of a goat.
From Kyrie to Agnus Dei, Hal
Sang all the parts, sang treble, alto, bass
And never worried what the music said.
The words were all that mattered. Still somehow
He’d hit the final note then turn his face
And wink at me and proudly raise his head.
Hal quit the church when Kyrie became
The simple English Lord and anyone
Who wanted stood and strummed communal chords
For masses where the singing was the same
As elevator sap, and Hal seemed stunned
To learn that music is in deed the words.